Monthly Archives: May 2012

US edition of Harmony out today!

Harmony by Keith BrookeOut today in the US:

Harmony, a Fermi paradox alternate history about an Earth that has always been occupied by aliens.

“A startlingly new take on the theme of an Earth under alien occupation. The  far-future Earth revealed to us is both familiar and weird, and Keith Brooke’s vivid, high-definition prose makes us see it all with magnificent clarity, as if we were there, sharing the ruins and rubble with his strange but all too human characters.” – Alastair Reynolds
The UK edition (called alt.human) is out in early June.

Whippleshield Books – a guest post by Ian Sales

Rocket Science, edited by Ian SalesI didn’t intend to set up my own small press. I had this science fiction novella which I thought was good enough to be published, but every small press I approached had a couple of years’ worth of material scheduled. I didn’t think a magazine would publish the novella because it has an extensive glossary – and the glossary is important to the reading experience. And, to be honest, I wasn’t entirely convinced editors would actually like my novella. I hadn’t written it in a science fiction mode… though it’s set in an alternate 1980s, is about astronauts stranded on the Moon, and makes use of an unexplained Nazi “Wunderwaffe”. But it’s not the sort of science fiction you see each year on the Hugo and Nebula shortlists. Besides, my novella was also the first of a quartet, and I’d sooner have sold all four as a single package… even though I hadn’t written the other three.

And then I agreed to edit Rocket Science, an anthology of hard science fiction, for Mutation Press (which was responsible for the Music for Another World anthology in 2010). The plan was to launch Rocket Science at the Eastercon in London in April 2012. It occurred to me this would be a perfect time to also launch my novella…

But the only way I was going to manage that would be to publish it myself. No existing small press, even if it agreed, would be able to turn it around so fast.

Self-publishing an ebook is one thing, but I wanted to do it properly. That meant making the novella, titled Adrift on the Sea of Rains, available in both paperback and limited edition hardback. Since I was going to all that trouble, I decided I might as well set up an actual small press, and make Adrift on the Sea of Rains its first publication. I especially liked that this gave me complete control over how the novella would appear in print.

However, I am unfortunately poor at art. I could have looked for suitable cover art on the Internet. Or perhaps used a photograph from the Apollo Moon missions. I did, in fact, experiment with some covers using both. But I wanted Adrift on the Sea of Rains to stand out, to not look like just another self-published science fiction novella. One night, I was watching MichelanAdrift on the Sea of Rains by Ian Salesgelo Antonioni’s Red Desert, and in it a character picked up a paperback book. Red Desert was released in 1964, and though the paperback in the film is Italian, it reminded me of the Penguin Modern Classic paperbacks on my bookshelves which used to belong to my father. I wanted something which resembled those books. After some experimentation, that’s what I ended up with: a cover filled with a grid of line-drawings of an Apollo LM, one of which is in grey. The art is actually relevant to the novella’s plot.

I asked a number of published sf authors I knew if they’d provide back-cover quotes. Those that agreed I emailed a PDF of the novella to. By the time I had the front cover finalised, all the quotes, ISBNs from Nielsen, and quotes from the printers, it was the beginning of March. I submitted print-ready files to the printer, and then fretted.

The first set of cover proofs had mistakes on them – made by the printers, not me. The second set were correct. A week before the Eastercon, a courier delivered five boxes of books, three of hardbacks and two of paperbacks. I was pleased to note the book had come out better than I’d expected. It’s not perfect, and if I could I’d make a few changes and release a new edition.

Since its publication, the response to Adrift on the Sea of Rains has been overwhelmingly positive. So far about ten reviews, all positive, have appeared online; and several people have tweeted that they thought it was really good. Of course, this means the pressure is now on to make the second book of the quartet even better…

As for Whippleshield Books… Yes, there are the other three books of the Apollo Quartet yet to see print. But I’m anticipating six to nine months between each one. Since I plan to publish two or three books a year, I’m going to need more material, so Whippleshield Books is open to submissions. But only of a specific type: novellas or very short linked collections, hard science fiction or space fiction, of high literary quality.

It’s likely I will be rejecting lots of submissions. I learnt doing Rocket Science that the definition of hard sf I was operating from wasn’t one shared by many of the people who submitted stories to the anthology. I have a very particular type of story in my head for Whippleshield Books – which, unsurprisingly, Adrift on the Sea of Rains, indeed the entire Apollo Quartet, sort of exemplifies – but I expect to be sent a lot of submissions which are very much not like that. The guidelines for Whippleshield Books can be found on the website.

More:


Ghostwriting: “an excellent collection”

Excellent review of Eric Brown’s Ghostwriting, over at Hellnotes:

“Irrespective of genre limitations Brown is a terrific storyteller as the present collection effectively proves… All in all an excellent collection of entertaining and well written dark fiction.”

Nice to see Eric getting this kind of recognition for this set of haunting, psychological horror: as I’ve said before, I think it contains some of his finest writing.


Update on UK pricing for our print editions – good news!

One of Us by Iain RowanI posted recently about the unsatisfactory distribution – and erratic pricing – of our print editions in the UK. Prices were higher, with high postage rates; and just to complicate matters, prices could vary widely week to week; and all of this was beyond our control at infinity plus.

We have some very good news on this: CreateSpace (our print-on-demand supplier) and Amazon (our main distributor) have finally got their European act together!

Now you can order our print editions from Amazon’s UK and other European stores for a price we’ve set, with the advantage of Amazon’s normal delivery options (including free).

So what’s stopping you? Right now we have the following available:

  • Iain Rowan’s CWA Debut Dagger-shortlisted crime novel One of Us, at £7.99
  • Eric Brown‘s collection of psychological horror stories, Ghostwriting, which contains some of his finest writing to date, at £6.99
  • And bestselling children’s author Kaitlin Queen‘s first adult novel One More Unfortunate, at £7.99

Coming soon we’ll have Iain Rowan’s crime collection, Nowhere to Go, recently shortlisted by Spinetingler for a best crime collection award, plus more to be announced soon.

Ghostwriting by Eric BrownNowhere to Go by Iain RowanOne More Unfortunate by Kaitlin Queen


A novel, by any other name

Harmony by Keith Brookealt.human by Keith Brooke

Spot the difference?

Same cover, same novel, different titles.

My big novel about aliens, the Fermi paradox and extreme alternate history, alt.human, will be called Harmony for the North American market.

Confused? It’s all about marketing.

Fairly late in the day, just before covers were finalised, my publishers presented the novel to distributors in the UK and US. Everyone loved the cover, and the novel itself. The US distributors, however, were less keen on the title – to the extent that they would make smaller orders than anticipated.

Simple. I can be fairly pragmatic about these things. I’ve had book titles changed before, as a result of a marketing department’s feel for the market or the response from distributors. While titles matter to me, what matters most is that I get my work out to readers. And while I might not agree with the distributors’ judgement on the title, their decision to make smaller orders was very real!

So I proposed a new title, Harmony. I actually like that title, quite a lot, and would have been happy for it to be adopted worldwide for the book. US distributors agreed, and promptly committed to bigger orders.

The UK distributors, however, loved alt.human, and really didn’t want to change it.

And so: same cover, same novel, different titles.


Snapshots: Garry Kilworth interviewed

What are you working on now?
I’m just about to revise the draft of a novel for Young Adults, the sequel to Attica which is to be filmed by Johnny Depp’s movie company Infinitum Nihil. The book was first sold to Warner Brothers by Tim Holman my Little Brown editor at the time of publication, but I assume WB have passed it on to the Captain Jack Sparrow to work his magic on. (GK Pictures also has a hand it somewhere, but I’m not sure where they fit in, apart from borrowing my initials.) The sequel, which has gone at snail’s pace for the last two years, is called Deepest Attica and involves a hoard of spears, shields, drums and carvings left by Henry Morton Stanley in the loft of a house in Surrey and a steam train crossing an attic the size of Africa. Want to read more? I hope so.

What have you recently finished?
My autobio, which has turned out to be the longest book I’ve ever written at 150 thousand words. I suppose one’s ego jumps into the driving seat when writing about one’s life. I found myself so interesting I couldn’t drag myself away from the keyboard. I’m sure others won’t feel the same attraction to the text, but hopefully there’s enough humour and quirky bits in there to keep them reading to at least halfway through. The title is On My Way To Samarkand – The Autobiography of a Travelling Writer. I have never been to Samarkand, though I’ve lived and worked in 9 countries and visited 60 others. However I do intend going there before the reaper gets his hands on me, so the idea is ‘On my way to Samarkand, I had a life’. Catchy, eh? Well, I thought so.

So what prompted you to turn to autobiography?
The autobio came about because the years have caught up with me. Not gradually, swiftly. All of a sudden I’m 70. This is why I did the motorbike ride in Queensland, to prove to myself that I can still have adventures. I didn’t even have a motorbike licence six weeks before I left for Oz. I went there with 20 hours in the saddle after solo-ing on the streets of Ipswich. However, the bikes were not big beasts, just sturdy little Honda 125cc Ozzie postie bikes – colts rather than full-blooded stallions – that are able to take a beating in off-road conditions. On reaching my 70th I realised I had not asked all those questions of my parents and grandparents. They are all dead and gone. So I answered my own questions.

What’s recently or soon out?
Recently out is a long novel entitled Winter’s Knight, a sort of fantasy with demons and mythological creatures entering the story, but usually they come when the protagonist is in a fever, so one is not quite sure what is real and what is not. There are no dragons in it, but it’s chock full of knights. The hero is a young blacksmith’s son who meets two dead men in the forest – a hanged murderer and his victim – who are arguing about who was in the wrong. As an aside to this quarrel they reveal that they have an insight into the youth’s future and they tell him he is destined to become a knight templar and will travel to the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Indeed, this prediction is fulfilled, but the road is far from smooth and the rewards do not meet expectations. It’s written under a pseudonym, Richard Argent, purely for reasons which elude me now. It is without a doubt the best historical novel I’ve written to date, but then I always think that about my latest work.

Your work is very diverse: what’s the appeal of the various genres you’ve worked in? When your work is so varied, how do you settle on a particular idea to write next?
I never set out to be a science fiction writer, or a any set kind of writer, I simply love to write. Science fiction is my first love, followed closely by fantasy/ghost stories. I’m not as keen on horror, but I do it if the mood comes over me. Other stuff – historical sagas, historical war novels, young adult books, non-fiction – the urge to write them comes from some inner source which I’ve never really challenged. It’s usually while I’m travelling through foreign places, or at concert lost in my own head, somewhere where I’m left to dream a little. I did a motorcycle rally through the Australian Outback in 2008 and saw the telegraph line that was built across that continent in 1880 with the loss of many lives. ‘Yeah,’ I said, dreamily looking up at the singing wire, ‘I’d like to write a novel about that.’ And so I will. Given that I was a telegraphist for 18 years, my first job, I think I know a little about the mechanics of the thing this time, which is not always the case when I set out to write a book. Usually I have to spend hours researching the hell out of the subject.

Short stories or novels?
Short stories every time. I love the white heat of getting a short story down in one go. It makes my head spin with excitement and I think – I hope I’m right – that my short stories are closer to an art form than my novels. Novels are interesting animals, but they are slow ponderous beasts and have such long tails you can’t see the end of them when you’re sitting down day on day churning out the words. Short stories are like kingfishers, bright turquoise darts that flash across the still waters of the brain. Yeah.

You’re well-travelled and have lived in a number of countries: how do you think this has influenced your work?
A huge amount. I find other cultures magical. They stimulate me to a fever of writing. My first great journey was to Aden (now South Yemen) as an 11-year-old at a time (1952) when people of my class did not travel further than the nearest seaside town for a two week holiday. I went by troopship through the Suez Canal and down the Red Sea and found myself living with a wide desert out back and a volcano just beyond my front door. My school friends for several years were Arab and Somali boys who treated me with warmth and friendship. A spiritual people with a fiery element, who moved with a grace I could never equal. I still dream of my childhood in Aden, an earthier landscape that continues to haunt me.

Describe your typical writing day.
Get up, have breakfast, take a cup of coffee with me to my study, sit down at my desk computer (which I never have on-line for fear of viruses) and write. I have a laptop next to me, to check things and do research as I work. I usually do a thousand words at a sitting, then have a break, then do another thousand. If the second thousand takes me into the afternoon I sometimes find my eyes closing and my head drooping, so I get up and lie down on the carpet and have half-an-hour’s kip. My former cat Dylan used to look for me at this time and curl up with me. He died in 2004 and we’ve never replaced him. I find this nap refreshes me enough to get up and finish the two-thousand words. After two-thou my creativity steam runs out and even though I’m physically able to continue, I know I’m mentally shagged, so I stop.

What would you draw attention to from your back-list?
Ah, my favourite children! The Drowners, House of Tribes, 3 collections of short stories, The Navigator Kings trilogy, The Welkin Weasels double-trilogy and Hunter’s Moon.

Which other authors do you think deserve a plug?
You’re an excellent author yourself, Keith, but also Guy Adams, James Barclay, Lisa Tuttle, Christopher Evans, Geoff Ryman, Claude Lalumiere, Christian Lehmann, Kim Stanley Robinson, oh, and Isaac Asimov. Actually, there are many, many great genre authors out there who deserve a lot more attention and recognition than they get from the literary world and the general public.

If you were to offer one snippet of writing advice what would it be?
Persevere. Ignore any rejections and continue to write.

More…
Phoenix Man by Garry Kilworth

Garry Kilworth was born in York city in 1941, never spending more than two years in the same house until he reached 40 years of age. He began to write at the age of 12, trying to emulate Richmal Crompton and Rudyard Kipling, his two favourite childhood writers, but only succeeding with the odd word. His first novel was In Solitary, a science fiction work published in 1976. A shorter novel than most, the author was described by Malcolm Edwards as having ‘verbal anorexia’, not realising that Garry Kilworth was at his best with brevity and economy of words. Since then he has written some 80 novels and collections of short stories in various genres, hoping that readers will recognise quality amongst the quantity. He is a father to two and a grandfather to five.

Buy stuff:


Snapshots: TC McCarthy interviewed

What are you working on now?
Literary fiction. It seems to me that if one is going to claim that one writes, then one should try to write in as many different ways as possible. At least try. And if the attempt fails, chalk it up as a learning experience. But if a given writer is going to claim that he/she writes “literary” speculative fiction, then he/she needs to show me publications in peer reviewed, non-genre literary venues before I believe them – preferably venues from academia. I have a similar peeve when it comes to SFF ‘zine editors. Don’t give me the self-licking ice-cream cone argument that your magazine publishes literary speculative fiction because “I and my staff have MFAs and we say it’s literary.” Prove it; publish more stories from authors who have real literary credentials outside of genre, writers not from the same crowd we find lobbying one another at WorldCon every year for the next Nebula or Hugo or Campbell. Christ; take a chance for once and try something different. Maybe then your publication might not have to panhandle via PayPal to stay afloat.

But back to the question: right now a literary novella is in the works and there’s a specific market in my sights.

What have you recently finished?
I just finished a literary novel that my agent is sending out and it’s “absolutely fantastic” (someone else’s words, I swear). I don’t want to give too much away. But it’s about an adolescent genius who puts his intelligence to use in lawbreaking, and who is really confused about whether he’s gay or straight.

What’s recently or soon out?
The second book in my military science fiction series just came out, Exogene, and the third book, Chimera, is about to hit shelves in August. Also, I have a digital SF-horror novelette coming out from Orbit in the next month or two (Ellen Datlow, pay attention!), and will be releasing my own short story within the next couple of weeks. Look for “Sunshine” and “Somewhere it Snows” wherever e-books are sold.

What inspired the Subterrene War series?
This is a really good question but one I don’t want to answer. At least not truthfully, so I’ll be vague. Most people have to, at some point, experience a bit of hell because that comes with being alive. The Subterrene War series is semi-autobiographical; it finds its origin in my darkest years.

You’ve lived in lots of places but always end up back in the South – what is it that draws you back? How does it influence your writing: are you a Southern writer, or just a writer who lives in the South?
I’m a southern writer. Completely. Although I lived in California for a bit, I spent most of my life in the deep south, and it influences me in ways that are hard to describe. Last week I drove from Aiken, South Carolina, to Savannah, Georgia, and saw towns that I’d forgotten because the world also forgot them and they were left off the maps. These people clung to the textile trade for decades, hoping it would last; they made the wrong bet. Milliken & Company ran so fast in 2008 that it left its factory in the kudzu the same way a bank robber abandons getaway cars (by pushing them over cliffs) and all the barbed wire was rusty despite the fact that someone still mowed and weeded the factory lawn – like maybe if they kept the place neat the mill Gods would return. People stared. But nobody yelled or threw rocks at my car because I belonged there since we were all on the same sinking ship and I think they saw the same look in my eyes that they knew was in theirs: one that says you can’t escape fate. Much of my writing has fatalistic overtones and although I hesitate to say that this is a widespread feature of all southern writing, it is my reaction to having lived here for so long. Kudzu is a hell of a weed; it gets into one’s head and not much will stop it.

Short fiction or novels – what are your preferences as writer and reader?
Novels. It is much harder to write short stories because you have to get every word right, and I love reading novels because they go on longer; there’s more to enjoy.

Describe your typical writing day.
Up at three AM. Write until six AM. Get the kids ready for school, go to work, come home and help with homework until the kids go to bed. Write from 9PM to 11PM. Sleep. Do it all again. Sigh.

Which other authors or books do you think deserve a plug?
Many that didn’t make it to the Campbell, Hugo, Clarke, Philip K Dick, or Nebula short lists. Seriously; we see the same names on some of these lists year after year, and it’s not always because those authors are the best. But among those overlooked, there are some that I’m just flabbergasted didn’t get award nods. Here are my picks:

Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline (not nominated for any awards? REALLY?)

Miserere, by Teresa Frohock

Prince of Thorns, by Mark Lawrence

A lot of Camille Alexa’s work is great – who the hell is noticing this girl? Nobody?

If you were to offer one snippet of writing advice what would it be?
Ignore the snark from certain reviewers, editors and authors out there on twitter and in the blogosphere. Just write. Some of those people are the enemies of fiction and they’re too stupid to realize that advancing socio-political agendas at the expense of story is the same thing as firing a sawed off shotgun at Virginia Woolf. Write what’s in your gut.

So… the easy one: what’s the future of publishing? How will writers be making a living and publishing in five or ten years? What will readers be reading?
The future of publishing? Somewhere between what we have now and a total Amazon monopoly. Amazon is winning the war and its goal is to “eliminate the middleman,” which means getting rid of literary agents, distributors, and publishers. I see their argument. The downside, however, is that once this is done, they’ll be the only game in town, which the anti-trust people in government will never let happen (and which would be an author’s worst nightmare). So I can’t give a more clear answer than what I’ve already said, but in 5-10 years people will be reading a lot more stuff that’s going for 99 cents, and weeding through garbage to get to good books because there won’t be as many of the old-style publishers out there to filter out crap. So… I’m teaching myself how to self publish too.

More…
Exogene by TC McCarthy

TC McCarthy is a critically acclaimed southern author whose short fiction has appeared in Per Contra: The International Journal of the Arts, Literature and Ideas, in Story Quarterly and in Nature. His debut novel, Germline, and its sequel, Exogene are available worldwide and the final book of the trilogy, Chimera, will be released in August 2012. Visit him at www.tcmccarthy.com, or find out more about TC at The Big Idea.

Buy stuff:


%d bloggers like this: